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Dr. River Song, or How I Learned to Stop Seething and Love Doctor-Ships.

May 4, 2011


I have had a long history of hating on Doctor Who romances. And it all starts with Rose Tyler. I honestly didn’t start hating on Rose until Martha came along, when I started paying a lot more attention to the story and studying the Doctor’s back story. About then I also started hating on Martha’s fawning over the Doctor as well. Somehow the idea of the Doctor in a romantic relationship was just plain wrong.

The fact of the matter is that Rose Tyler is a Mary Sue. She’s a shippy fan-girl self insert. A shop girl plucked out of nowhere with no formal training in anything, she still manages to be perfect in every way. She destroyed the Daleks, merged with the TARDIS, saves the day more often than the Doctor himself, and inexplicably got the Doctor to fall in love with her in under two years. Even after her departure as a companion in series three, everyone else goes on about how perfect she is. She wants to stay with him forever and ever in a childish kind of way, and then ends up with her own life-sized, living, breathing, Doctor sex toy. If she has any kind of flaw, it’s that she loves and cares TOO MUCH! Mary F***ing Sue.

It rankled me to no end that he fell for Rose. I always viewed the Doctor as asexual. Not a single other companion ever developed any kind of romance with the Doctor, and it’s highly possible he simply didn’t view them in that way. Maybe the Time Lords don’t really have any sex drive to speak of, and maybe they reproduce in some bizarre strictly scientific way. He just enjoyed hanging out with humans, but actually getting romantically involved with them? It was wrong. Like… pedo wrong. After all, he’s 900 years old or so, and here’s this young, trusting, naive race of people that is desperate for his attention and approval. It still makes my skin crawl.

Spoilers after the jump! Martha Jones could have been such a better companion if she didn’t fall for him as well. Continuing this trope with a much more capable, well rounded woman was insulting. She couldn’t be happy unless the Doctor loved her back, and she couldn’t travel with him unless he loved her back. Yet another woman whose happiness could only be found through a relationship with a man. She couldn’t be content with simply going on adventures with a fun alien guy, noooo.

Poor Donna.

Which brings us to the awesome Donna Noble, who met the most tragic end of the three. Donna was not interested in the Doctor in any way, shape, or form, which allowed their relationship to grow in other, much more interesting ways. Donna actually had a character arc, she grew and developed. She was imperfect in a lot of ways, impatient and flighty, a perfect foil to the patient and brilliant Doctor. The two of them butting heads was a joy to watch, and I really miss her.

Next, Amy Pond. Yes, I like Amy, though they’re still teasing at the idea that she likes the Doctor. I’m happy to chalk the brief make-out session between her and the Doctor to pre-wedding jitters, because the alternative makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Rory has more than proven himself a perfect partner for Amy, and I’m hoping that “fall out of the sky” nonsense from Day of the Moon is the last we see of any kind of ridiculous love triangle. After all, we have to focus on the Doctor and River.

So why do I approve of the Doctor and River when the idea of his shacking up with anyone else gives me the willies? Why is this woman the only one good enough for the Doctor? Easy. She is his equal.



River Song, like Martha, is a doctor. She’s brilliant, experienced, confident, and quick thinking. She doesn’t need the Doctor to define herself or to be complete, neither does he need her. She manages well on her own, having her own adventures without him. As we know her now, she’s spent a lifetime traveling with him, learning about him and the TARDIS, slowly building a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. She’s the closest thing to a Gallifreyan he is ever going to find, and part of that is due to each of them building the relationship in that way, almost grooming the perfect mate because they know what comes next.

Granted, last episode I thought it was a little heavy and strange with the flirting, but by the end I realized it was because from River’s point of view they were in a romantic relationship already. What we saw was the end of it, and my heart broke when I saw the look on River’s face as she realized it.

This is how you do a Doctor relationship. The way the story is unfolding is great, the backwards time lines is a brilliant concept. So now that they are “together” officially, I am excited for the first time to see where this goes.

A quick aside: Does anyone else think it’s super obvious who the murderous Impossible Astronaut is?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    May 4, 2011 12:35 pm

    I don’t think there’s aaaaaaaaaaaanything obvious about who was in the Impossible Astronaut suit. I’m tempted to think it was the Doctor himself as some timey wimey stuff.

    But if it was River who killed the Doctor, she’d have known before it happened, and I don’t think she was really playing a role when she went ballistic with grief and unloaded a revolver at the back of the fleeing Astronaut. I think that the man she murdered must have been some other ‘great man’, and Moffat is cackling with glee at the frantic guessing games we’re all being subjected to right now. I’m freaking MISERABLE with all the questions these episodes left us with. There’s usually only one mystery to launch the season with, but we’ve got like half a dozen here!

    • May 4, 2011 12:40 pm

      I worry that it’s TOO obviously River, so it must not be. And yet, her shock could be the fact that she’s seeing him die again, and this time she loves him. As she’s shooting at the retreating astronaut and misses, she says, “Of course not.” Of course she doesn’t hit and kill her past self. She knows that she can’t save him, nor does she really want to. I watched the Library eps again this weekend, and the Doctor is telling her that time can be rewritten, she tells him, “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare change one moment of us,” or something to that effect.

  2. May 5, 2011 11:20 pm

    I too thought i very obviously had to be that River was the astronaut. It makes perfect sense. However, I also agree that it might be SO obvious that it won’t actually be. The writers do love to throw us for a loop after all.

    Does anyone else think that there’s a chance Amy’s sort-of-there-but-not-there baby might be River as well? Or is that my brain being REALLY weird?

    Also: raise your hand if you’re absolutely DYING for Neil Gaiman’s episode!

    • May 6, 2011 1:07 pm

      Eeeh. I dunno about it being a Songbaby. River hails from the 51st Century like Jack Harkness. I don’t think that things would be THAT interconnected.

      And yes. Gaiman might be a “pencil-necked weasel,” but his episode is the one I am most excited about.

      • Skyley permalink
        April 22, 2013 4:46 am

        I’m giggling with future knowledge!

  3. Madeline permalink
    May 18, 2011 1:56 am

    Does no one think it might be our mystery little ginger girl timelord who was running about? timelords do grow up…i’m pretty sure

  4. PRIVILEGEBINGO permalink
    August 5, 2011 3:48 pm

    “She couldn’t be content with simply going on adventures with a fun alien guy, noooo.” There goes that “damn uppity negro” stuff that’s been aimed at Blacks since forever (and I’ll suppose it’s supposed to be in the interest of Feminism).

    Black women as characters have to be examined in a different context given the brand of marginalization (being treated as unwomen and subhuman therefore unattractive, undesirable and unlovable) aimed at them. While a character shouldn’t base their worth by how or what another character feels for them (note- I feel that Martha should forget about the doctor and I do feel that he’s asexual), it’s only realistic to think about the messages Martha might have grown up with you know… which isn’t to say she’s not a badly written character. I just don’t know really.

    Just my two cents so don’t get mad at me.

    • August 5, 2011 10:38 pm

      Interesting thought. I hadn’t even thought about Martha’s race, to be honest. I really admired her a lot, but felt disappointed in how she was treated as far as crushing on the Doctor so damn hard to the point that she couldn’t be happy unless she snagged him.

  5. Not Buying It permalink
    January 21, 2012 7:18 pm

    Yeah, no. If you can complain that Rose is a Mary Sue, River should make you cringe twice as hard. Literally, name ONE flaw this chick has. Rose’s flaws? Easy- She’s selfish to the point she leaves her family and boyfriend to feel worried, scared and second best all the time. She was insanely jealous of Sarah Jane and acted like a child. She went off and did things on her own without even thinking, often getting . Why did this all change towards the end? ‘Cause she as a character grew and became more than just a selfish, curious fish and chip eatting shop assistant. She grew and became brave and learned from her experiences. River on the other hand, is the biggest Mary Sue that ever Mary Sue’d. She’s hardly independent- everything she does she does with the Doctor or calls him. Her whole LIFE has been about the Doctor, the only reason she ‘fell in love;’ with him is cause she was under the impression that’s just what happens in the future. She even BECAME a doctor to find him. She’s got the exotic look, exotic name, weird relation to the main character, everyone likes her factor, twists the story so its all about her factor, main character is out shined by her on many occasions, makes other characters act out of character to make her look better (Dalek crying,”Mercy!”); Mary Sue. If you hate Rose, fine, good for you. But don’t go making out River isn’t a Sue just to make your fangirlish/boyish wishes and fulfilments seem more mature than others.

    • Steven Moffat permalink
      July 24, 2012 2:47 pm

      The flaws of River Song? Anyone who makes a creature – yes, even a dalek – beg for mercy before not granting it any is a pretty HUGE flaw! She even calls herself a psychopath. And besides, the Doctor is the biggest Mary Sue there is! River Song is the only one portrayed as an equal or even superior to the Doctor in some aspects. I think they would make a good couple. I, personally never got hooked onto the ten rose shipping, but to each their own.

      • July 24, 2012 3:01 pm

        Yeeah, I wrote this piece before the latest season.

  6. Rose Can You Believe It permalink
    December 29, 2012 11:49 pm

    I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said, in fact, thank you for helping me to understand why Rose bothered ME so much and why I was so happy to see sexy, crazy, cool River Song show up (best second entrance EVER) to FINALLY alleviate what had become oppressive, eternal hero-worship of the Doctor. They’re more on the same level, he’s doesn’t have his “travel through time and space” advantage, so he can’t call her a silly little, whatever (even though he kinda does at their wedding). I’ll go one further to point out the fact that they both go around kissing everyone they run into (even though we’re all pretending its oh-so-innocent when the Doctor does it). A second (or third) marriage made in heaven! New Who has attracted an audience interested in interpersonal relationships, hence the Rose “era”, but I’ve always thought that the show was supposed to be about sci-fi: running from attacks on earth, saving alien species/planets, and plain old adventure. NOT girly crushes and romantic circumstances (even the Girl in the Fireplace creeped me out a bit, and that was apparently one of the most popular episodes ever). Thank goodness that Blink got the credit it deserved because its plot is what Doctor Who is all about.

    To be honest, if I had to give up the existence of River Song (tear) in the first place, I totally would in order to be rescued from Doctor Whore. He’s a granddad, a saviour, and even the voice of reason. In order for him to be respected and kept on a pedestal, serious love can’t be a part of who he is, unless the chick dies a few episodes later to maintain the significance of the relationship (hence, why locking Rose in an alternate world doesn’t exaclty work, its also why its great that we got to see River Song’s death with less pain caused to us and many of us are ok with it being time for her to go as well because its not called Doctor and Mrs. Who). Even though Superman (yes, another alien) gets to have Lois Lane, he basically stayed put in one city, with one woman and they had offspring (sort of). Davies put himself (and us) in an awkward situation and had to resolve it by giving Rose a Doctor patch, otherwise they would have lost a lot of female fans when her time was up. Most shows that I’ve seen in which the two main characters move on to the serious relationship part lose their popularity soon after. I can’t believe Davies and Moffat didn’t take that into account. Maybe they just don’t care about the epic battle they’ve begun between the River and Rose shippers. Well, Moffat is clever, if not very good at writing a romance for a hero, maybe the shippers will keep the show alive way longer than sci-fi geeks ever could.

  7. November 10, 2013 3:55 pm

    And this is why I’m bothered about Rose being on the anniversary and not River.


  1. Spoiler Rich Thoughts: The only water in the forest is the River « The Feminine Miss Geek

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